Frequently Asked Questions - United Federation of Teachers

Office of Labor Relations
Frequently Asked Questions
Thes e F'A Q~ are intended as legal advice for Principal~' and other slJpl'.TVlsors and as such arr? profect(!d from
dilclosurf! as alJorne}Lc1ient communication, The purpose ofIf'lc.xe FAQs is 10 ensure greo":.r predictability thai
.Wpcrvi,tofS' action> will no! be cwertwned. As a resulT, some ofthe advice cantained herein may go beyDnd bare
mininllmr contracfual or legal requirement.~ and does not (l(!ceJsorily COfJ!Iliture the adminislrati(Jfl's inIerpretalian
ofa portiClllar contractual or legal provision, PrincipaIs and mher slJpen:i:;ors ma)' 1i.Iili::e this advice in their
discretion. Therefore, thrsc FAQs dfJ nor constiture a policy Qr directive ofthe Chonn:llor or the Department of
Educalion withamlimilation. Thr:: OjJice o/Lobar Relarions rcsen'es the right to change these FAQs at wm.
Far questions regarding these FAQs orfor any labor relations ilUfuiry, contact David
Bratbf·:y} at Qr Karen Solim.ando at>_
Rcvisr:d 4/'1007
Q: Did the 2005 UFT contract change the way principals should conduct observations?
A: No. You should continue your practice regarding formal observations and informal observations (as frequently
as you deem appropriate).
Q: What does the 2005 OFT agreement mean v..hen it slates that teachers cannot be disciplined for a) the format of
bulletin boards; b) the arrangement of classroom fumiture; and c) the exact duration of lesson units?
A: Exactly what it says - do not discipline specifically on these bases. Prindpals can and should counsel an~
where appropriate, discipline for poor instructional Of classroom management skills, poor student engagement, or
teacher-dominated lessons. There will be times when the issues arc related - for example, a teacher exhibits poor
classroom management which may be remedied by a different arrangement of classroom furniture - and in such
instances principals ean and should counsel andfor discipline.
For example in the ease of bulletin boards - "format" is not the same as "content." You can absolutely
discipline for content-based reasons. (~you shouldn~t discipline a teacher \\-'ho uses red paper instead of yellow
or wants to use staples instead oftacks~ however, you can and sbould discipline a teacher \vho displays examples
of poor student work, fails to display any student work, etc.)
Q: \Vhat are the elements of a formal observation?
A: A formal observation is one where the teacher and the supervisor h~ve prepared in advance and have a pre- and
post observation conference.
The clements of a formal observation are:
1. Pre-.Observation: A pre-observation conference is held during which the supervisor indicates the dements
of the lesson slhe expects to sec. For teachers
received an un...c;atisfactory rating during the prior school
year, or who are at risk of receiving an unsatisfactory rating (in the opinion ~fthe supervisor), the
supenisor should conduct a one-on-one pre-{)bservation conference. For teachers \.vho have satisfactory
ratings or are not at-risk of being U rated, the supervisor's expectations may be conveyed through faculty
conferences andlor memorandum distributions.
Observation: The obser....ation may be either: (1) a "composi1e" (i.e., series of short observations
highlighting different parts ofa lesson); or (2) full period,
3. Post-Observation: There should be a post-observation meeting in which the supervisor discusses the
observation 'with the teacher and points out the positive and negative portions of the lesson; areas for
improvement~ and any resources or strategies the supervisor is· directing the employee to utilize to improve.
Keep notes of the employee's response.
4. Prepare Renort: Prepare observation report as soon as practicable. The structure is:
conference recap;
• Narrative portion (he:, non-<::ritjcaJ detailed description of what you obscnred);
• Post-observation conference recap - including positive and negative aspects of lesson and
recommendations regarding strategies for improvement and support and resources that ....~11 be provided,
as well as any comments/responses from the te.acher.
NOTE; Your criticisms in post-obscrvation recaps must relate to things you observed and documented
in the narrative portion ~ do rIOt critici7..e a teacher for giving the wrong answer unless you described
this in your narrative). Do not include comments that indicate that a teacher has committed misconduct
- i.e. broke certain rules - because misconduct should be the subject of a separate disciplinary letter.
• Conclusion whether the lesson is unsalisfacto0' or satisfactory.
S. Signature: The signature of the employee indicating slhe received the report (remember, an observation
report should be for the file, and., therefore, must be signed by the teacher or there should be an indication
by you or a ""itness that the teacher refused to sign).
Q: Are tcachers allowed to bring their U.....T representative to tbe post-observation conferences?
A: No. Teachers may hring their union representatives only to disciplina1}' meetings -~. meetings regarding
violation of school policies, rules, or oilier misconduct.
Q: Must a formal observation be for an entire period?
A: No. At }'our discretion., a formal observation may be either: (I) a "composite" of observations (1.e., series of
short observations highlighting different parts of a ]esson)~ or (2) a full period obsen1ation.
Q: How many formal observations must be given each year?
A: The following are the minimum number of required classroom observations:
Community School Districts C·CSD"): Nev,," (both new teachers and teachers who are new to the schoo!) and
probati onary teachers, a minimum of two formal observations peIj'ear.
Hi I!h School: New and probationary teachers receive a minimum of two fonna! obsen'ations per term.
Tenured ieachers receive one full period or one composite per schoollerm.
All Teachers: AJlleachers receive at least one formal observation per year.
,VOTE: \Vhile there is nO minimum number of observatioru required, if you are planning to rate a teacher
unsatisfactory or have problems 'with his or her performancc, it's recommended that you conduct more than the
minimum fonnaJ obsen.'ations as well as.a number of infonnal observations.
Note: Tenured Pedagogues
A.rbitrators ,'>'ill demand to sec additional formal observations when
bringing charges for incompetence against tc:nurcd teachers and other
pedagogues. In some cases it's advisable to have at least one performed
by the principal's superVisor, such as a LIS or a member of the LIS' or
Regional Superintendent's supervisory staff. Please conL1cl your
Regional Counselor rsc Counsel for more information regarding
disciplinary action against tenured pedagogues.
Q: \V11o conducts the formal observations?
A: At least one of the formal observations must be perfonned by you (the principal) each year.
Q: U an interim acting principal or assistant principal conducts a fOITIlal teacher observation, is an appointed
principal obligated to sign the obscrvation too?
A: No, howc\rcr it does not hurt - particularly if it is likely that the interim acting assistant principal may not be in
the same school in coming years.
Q: How maIiy fomlal unsatisfactory obsenrations per year are required to sustain an unsatisfactoT)' rating?
A: There is no specific requirement. See discussion below regarding Rating Employees
Q: Can a teacher request to perform a project in lieu of receiving; a formal observation?
A: Yes.
The evaluation of teachers is governed by 'Teaching for the 21't Century." According to this document, there
are two options for evaluation - Component A: .<\.nnual Performance Option, or Component B: Formal
Observation. A teacher's eligibility to choose either option depends 011 the teacher's performance and tenure \,ith
tile Dep artrnent.
Component A: Annual Performance Option: A satisfactory, tenur~ teacber may choose, in conjunction v.rith
hislher supervisor, this component as the applicable performance evaluation mechanism. Pursuant to this
process, a teacher will prepare a v.rrinen statement of their annual perfonnance option identifying goals 2nd
objectives for the school year. and, at the end of the year, the impact of these activities \'lill be and
Component B: Ponnal Ob_~rvation: Teachers who are new to the school, probationary teachers, tenured
teachers who received an unsatisfactory rating the prior year, and tenured teachers in danger ofreceiving an
unsatisfactory rating must have formal classroomobservatiollS by a principal or supervisor early in the term.
See Discussion above regarding Formal Observations.
Q: IfI am a new principal and the "status quo" regarding evaluations has been very la.~ and ineffective~,
teachers propose non-specific goals and objectives), how can 1 move to a more fonnal evaluation system?
A To move from a lax observation system to a more rigorous observation system you should first assess the
current system ~ .\h&,- ask teachers to demonstrate through portfolios and objective data that their current methods
are best for instruction for the kids. If you are not satisfied, you may move to a fonnaJ obscrvation system though
you should consult with your Senior Regional Counsel~ ISC COlUlsel, or the Office of Labor R~lations.
Remember, you maya/ways do infonnal ohseTVations.
May 1 conduct inforrnaJ observations?
A: Yes. You may conduct as many infonnal obseryalions as you like and you may Vl-TIte infom1al observation
reports for teachers' files. An informal observation report is simply a written description of what you saw' "",tile
the teacher \'o'as performing his or her duties along \l,'ith suggestions for improvement.
Q: What are the steps for an informal observation?
A: You should conduct a post-observation conference and then memorialize the informal observation in the form
of a letter or report as soon as practicable. The steps for an infonnal observation are as follows:
1. Observation
• No advance notice necessary.
• May be either composite or one full period.
• No time limit.ation regarding length of observation.
2. Post ObservlltioD DiscussiQ!!
• Discuss j'OUI observations, strengths~ areas/programs for improvement, repercussions for non-
• Union representative may not be present (unless misconduct is involved in \....hich case you can address
with a union represen1ati ve present or schedule a separate disciplinary conference).
3. Written Report or Letter
• Write "InforDlftl Observation Rcport'~ on the top of the letter/report.
, Describe what you saw while the teacher was performing his/hcr duties and suggestions for improvement.
• Include employee's responses from post-observation discussion.
4. Delivery and Si@ature
• Obtain cmployects signature and, if slhe refuses to sign. you or a witness.should rrwk it "refused to sign."
Q: \Vhat do I do jra teacher's classroom is routinely mismanaged, chaotic and lacks adequate instruction but
when I conduct a formal observation the lesson plan is done very ,"vell?
A: You or an AP should conduct informal observations on a more frequent basis. Then, document the
observations in reports to be placed in the employee's file. You may also want to prepare a disciplinary letter for
the file if employee failed to implement suggested improvements.
Ll'Sson Plans.
Q: Are teachers required to prepare lesson plans?
A; Yes. Teachers must wdte lesson plans. As noted in the Teachers' Contract, ',[t]he development of lesson plans
by and for the use of the teacher is a professional responsibility vital to effective teaching." (Source: Teachers'
Contract, Article 8E).
Q: What authority do 1have to cnsure that teachers are planning properly?
Review your teachers' lesson plans to eu!>Ure that they arc planning through spot-checks of all teachers'
Jesson plans (though you shouJd not regularly collect all teachers' lesson planf;,~. every Tuesday).
Regularly collect lesson plans of teachers who are at risk of an unsatisfactory rating.
Require specific content of lesson plans if you believe that such content is necessary for effedive planning.
It is a good idea to tic this to an observation, i£.:., better planning would improve the lesson.
Dicl1lle the formatting or organ.ization (in addition to content) of a plan if the teacher received an
unsatisfactory rating the previous period or is on notice that they are at risk of an unsatisfactory rating and
you believe formatting and organization changes are importanL for proper planning.
What if a teacher argues that 1 am dictating format) whereas I believe it is content?
A: ~ince you are likely focusing on only the unsatisfactory teachers - Or those at risk of au-rating - one sl~alegy is
to gIve the teacher notice that they are at risk of a u-rating and you can then dictate formatting as well as content.
Q: Can I CDUecticopy lesson plans?
A: Yes, as part of documentation for a u-rating you may copy lesson plans to show inadequate planning.
- Best Practiu Explain in \vriting at the beginning of the year (possibly at a faculty conferenc,e) your
expectations for the requirement that a teacher must have lesson plans and what
constitutes an adeq uate lesson plan.
Q: Can I request that tcachers plan for an entire week in advance?
A: Yes. You may require that teachers plan in advance to ensure scaffolding from one lesson to the next, although
how much detail a plan bas days in advance will depend upon the individual teacher - f.:&., you will give more
discretion to teuchers who have exhibited proper planning and lesson delivery. You also should allow flexibility
for plans to be altered during the week.
Remember, you will only be regularly collecting plans if the teacher bas received an unsatisfactory rating,
in danger of an unsatisfactory rating, and this is a part ofan effort to improve the teacher's planning.
Q: Can 1 requesl to see lesson plans from prior weeks/months?
A: Yes, you may request to see old le~son plans - ~ from the prior week - to see how the teacher arrived at the
point in a partkuJar lesson and to ensure scaffolding.
Q: fs a teacher required to have lesson plans with them during their class?
A: Yes. Teachers arc required to have the lesson for a class with them when thc)' are teaching that class.
Q: Can I require lesson plans fOT the 37.5 minute instruction time?
A: Yes. You have the same tools available to you to maintain quality assurance of instructional time that you
would at other times of the instructional day. You may require lesson plans or some less formal evidence of
planning, formally/infomlall)' observe teachers during this time, and should a teacher fail to adequately pcrfonn
during this small group time. mal teacher may be disciplined and U rated in the same manner you would during the
re st of th e instruclional day.
Schoo) Policies.
Q: C<m J create a written dn:ss code policy for my school?
A: No. However, at the start of the school year, you should com..ey the expectation that reachers are expected to
dress in an appropriate and professional manner throughout both the school year and summer school.
Note: In the event a teacher's attire is inappropriate you should informally counsel the teacher that hislhe anire
is inappropriate; explain that it adversely impacts the learning environment (be specific -~, students are
distracted and leering/joking around rather than concentrating, or parenl<Jstaff members arc upset and
uncomfortable). If the problem persists, you may discipline this teacher with a disciplinary letter and be sure to
explain hov... the inappropriate attire negatively impacts the learning environment.
Q: Can I create an attendance policy?
A: Yes.
Q: What should my attendance policy be?
A: You should convey to an employees, verbally and in writing, that they are expected to be at school every day
prepared to perform their duties. While many schools define excessive absences as JOin a school year, we advise
against establishing a policy v.rith a specific number. The number lOis based on the number of sick days teachers
and other employees accrue annually as per their contract. However, establishing a policy that specifics a num~r
of absences considered to be excessive will have the effect of establishing a specific number of absences for which
teachers and other staff members cannot be disciplined. While that doesn't mean )'OU must unsatisfactorily rate an
employee who misses, for example 7 or 8 days of \vorIc, you as the principaJ should exercise your judgment as 10
whether an employee's attendance record rendered their overall performance unsatisfactory. Therefore, you
should utilize your discretion reasonably \vhcn rating employees unsatisfactory based on their time and attendance
record. Hov,rever, there may be situations where it is appropriate to distinguish between employees even though
they may have similar time aDd attendance records for a particular school year. If you believe you have such a
situation you should consult your Senior Regi.onal Counsel, ISC Counsel, or the Office of Laoor Relations.
Q: How do I apprise m}' staff of the school policies?
A~ At the first faculty conference
with your staff, you should review and distribute school policies.
- Best Practice At faculty c-onferences, in addition to other business, you should:
At the first conference, distribme school policies and Chancellor's
Regulations C-l05, A~420, and A-421.
Take attendance, have sign-in sheets, and obtain signed acknowledgements
with respect to school policies (wbich will verify tMt employees received
Regularly remind staff about policies.